Long novels are in favor again. It's a trend that's never really gone away, but right now, more is better when it comes to acclaim.
Take the novel I began this week (or better yet, get your own copy). The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt has something in the tone of its first pages that took me right back to the shape and feel of The Secret History. A young man, no longer freshly young, is looking back at a big event with regret. This time, it has something to do with his mother. Even in less than 20 pages, it's apparent she was special. And she's gone. And it's the narrator's fault. There are more than 750 pages of novel coming up.
As eager as I am to find out what happened and what's going on now, and how they're connected, I also don't want to rush through this book. It takes Tartt years to write novels. She's right up there with Marilynne Robinson in that regard.
So why do I want to rush through the reading experience that comes from such years of craft?
It's going to take weeks to get through this novel. And that's all right with me.
Some of the books I've enjoyed most have been the result of experiences that were long-term affairs. As a teenager who inhaled books, Middlemarch took me a month. It was a wonderful experience. It showed me that I didn't have to race through a book to enjoy it. Rather, taking my time helped me realize what George Eliot was actually saying behind the the interplay of dialogue and plot movement. The narrative was telling me more than the actions of the characters.
It was telling me the width and breadth of human feeling and endeavor, and how wanting something and making it happen could be circumvented so easily by circumstance, society and the easily missed moments of awkward communication between people.
Other novels over the years have had a similar heady impact on me -- Robinson's Gilead, Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, A.S. Byatt's Possession, which brought me back to literary fiction after years of reading mysteries, fantasy and romance. (That's what being a glutton in 19th century and early 20th century literature can do to some people; the pendulum had to swing back in the other direction before being reset.)
Other books that have been on my "I can hardly wait to start this one" list also are big 'uns. For example, Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries is 848 pages. It won the Man Booker and has a structure designed to illuminate its story. I believe it will be worth the time I put into it.
Which is a round-about way of saying that anything I read is worth the time I put into it, and I wish that kind of gratification for all readers. I once raced through the latest installment in a crime fiction series that I had been waiting months to be published. I read the book in 90 minutes. I felt like a kid who waits all year for Christmas, who tears through all her packages in 15 minutes, and then knows it's going to be months and months before anything half as exciting happens again. It's not a good feeling.
But what about those TBR mountains that just keep getting bigger? What about the new-to-me discoveries, the newly published books and the old favorites that demand a revisit? Knowing there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other books out there that I want to read and that I would no doubt be glad to have read do not replace the experience of living inside a novel and being thrilled, saddened, gladdened and thoroughly enthralled with what someone else has created out of his imagination but which feels so intimately real.
And that's just novels. What about the vast onslaught of material available online and the ways in which the internet has changed our thinking while we read? No wonder there's a slow reading movement. I don't think of slow reading as a backlash against being connected as much as a wish to restore balance and a desire to sink into a book and live in its pages. For however long the journey lasts.
Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:
|DAY||TIME (EST/EDT)||Series Name||Editor(s)|
|SUN||6:00 PM||Young Reader's Pavilion||The Book Bear|
|2:00 PM||What's on Your E-Reader?||Caedy|
|2:00 PM||Bibliophile's Wish List||Caedy|
|4:00 PM||Political Books||Susan from 29|
|Sun||9:30 PM||SciFi/Fantasy Book Club||quarkstomper|
|Bi-Monthly Sun||Midnight||Reading Ramblings||don mikulecky|
|MON||8:00 PM||Monday Murder Mystery||michelewln, Susan from 29|
|Mon||11:00 PM||My Favorite Books/Authors||edrie, MichiganChet|
|TUES||5:00 PM||Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left||bigjacbigjacbigjac|
|alternate Tuesdays||8:00 AM||LGBT Literature||Texdude50, Dave in Northridge|
|alternate Tuesdays||8:00 AM||All Things Bookstore||Dave in Northridge|
|Tue||8:00 PM||Contemporary Fiction Views||bookgirl|
|Wed||2:00 PM||e-books||Susan from 29|
|Wed||8:00 PM||Bookflurries Bookchat||cfk|
|THU||8:00 PM||Write On!||SensibleShoes|
|Thu (first each month)||11:00 AM||Monthly Bookpost||AdmiralNaismith|
|alternate Thursdays||11:00 PM||Audiobooks Club||SoCaliana|
|FRI||8:00 AM||Books That Changed My Life||Diana in NoVa|
|Fri||8:00 PM||Books Go Boom!||Brecht|
|Fri||10:00 PM||Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable||shortfinals|
|SAT (fourth each month)||11:00 AM||Windy City Bookworm||Chitown Kev|
|Sat||12:00 PM||You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews||pwoodford|
|Sat||9:00 PM||Books So Bad They're Good||Ellid|